Q&A WITH CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AUTOMOTIVE FRANCHISE OWNER JADE STANFORD
Jade Stanford moved from Louisiana to open his Christian Brothers Automotive franchise in Concord, North Carolina, two years ago. He is one of the pioneers for the brand in North Carolina, helping to establish the name and reputation of our three-decade-old brand in the Charlotte market.
Two years ago, Jade shared the story of why he joined Christian Brothers Automotive as a franchisee. As Christian Brothers expands into new markets nationwide, we asked him to share his journey for the benefit of others who may be considering whether opening a Christian Brothers auto repair franchise is the right decision for them and their family.
What was it like being one of the first franchisees in the Charlotte area?
It takes some time and effort to get everything going. We followed a marketing plan — such as advertising in a local magazine, some sending mailers to people who had just moved into our area, and using online marketing and online advertising so people will find us when they are searching online. The most important thing, though, has been word of mouth. When people come into a shop to get automotive service done we work hard to give them a nice experience that they want to talk about after they’ve gone home. When they’re talking with the neighbor across the street, we want them to say, “Man, I went and got a brake job at Christian Brothers and it was amazing.”
How much has brand recognition grown since you have been here? Do you have many first-time customers who seek you out because of word-of-mouth?
The brand recognition has grown tremendously and we’re very, very thankful to have other locations that have come into the area — in Huntersville and Mooresville. The more that we’ve built the name and people recognize us, the better things have become. Our name has certainly gotten around. We’ve benefitted a lot from people who have read our reviews — they see that the customers who have tried us love us, so they come in.
Are you meeting your business goals?
Yes, I’m very, very happy with where we are and the growth that we experienced in 2015. I’m expecting incredible growth in 2016. We’re praying about that and quite honestly, we’ve set some ridiculous goals for 2016 that I think are attainable.
Christian Brothers lobbies are comfortable and attractive, and customers are often invited into the service bay to see why certain repairs are recommended. How have customers responded to the Christian Brothers “Nice Difference”?
I think they’ve responded very, very well, and we’re super proud of the online reviews that we’ve received. We pride ourselves in providing clear communication to customers so they can make an informed decision about maintenance and repairs — what they should do now; what they can put off. We’ve gotten great feedback from our customers that say “they don’t push us to do something, but they let us know everything that’s going on with our car.”
We also offer our shuttle service, and that is greatly appreciated as well. We have a lot of people in our area who either work from home or are stay-at-home parents, and it works out really well for them to be able to drop their car off and get a ride home.
I think the “Nice Difference” is about offering a little bit more consideration, taking a little bit more time to listen to people when they’re explaining what their issues are, and also taking a little bit more time when we explain to them what our findings are with their vehicle. We treat people as guests, not just customers.
How does the Christian Brothers team in Houston help you?
I appreciate the accounting structure they offer because I’m not an accountant. I really appreciate having someone who understands our books and helps me with that.
We also have a coach we speak to on a regular basis, as well as a peer group of other store owners that we talk with and set goals with. We hold each other accountable. Christian Brothers provides that wonderful network, and then helps us interpret numbers and metrics for our business, and provides context about what’s normal, what we can improve upon, and what to expect with regard to overall store performance and the individual performance of different team members.
How important is previous industry experience?
You know, honestly, from my perspective, I think having no previous industry experience is better. The reason I say that is, I did have previous experience and I found it very difficult to back away from the day-to-day operations. (Before becoming a Christian Brothers franchisee, Jade managed an independent auto repair business in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.) A business owner needs to maintain a big picture perspective, and if you’re caught up in that day-to-day, you lose that.
What does your typical day look like?
I come in and assist my service manager at preparing the schedule and look at the cars that are in our bays, and the cars we’re expecting that day. Once customers start to arrive, I do a lot of shuttling, giving customers rides to their home or to work in the morning. Most of my morning is usually consumed with that, and in the afternoon you’re dealing with mostly back office work, and so that can be general emails, it could be looking at advertising opportunities, interviewing prospective technicians or service advisors — making sure that all of our books are in order.
A lot of people choose to open a Christian Brothers because they are looking for a business that will allow them to live their faith. What does that look like in your business?
Oh, my goodness … we do things all the time. We’ve got a vehicle in the bay right now and, I’m even conflicted about whether to share it because it’s not something that we promote or advertise, but we had an opportunity to help out a woman and her son who have fallen on hard times. We brought her vehicle in to see what we could do to help her and, without mentioning specific numbers, we have a charitable goal every month that we set aside just to help people out as we become aware of needs. So that’s something that’s really important to me, and it’s important to my team that we do that. Each of our team members have also set personal goals for time they want to donate to help people out. That’s something that I’m very proud of.
What advice do you have for new Christian Brothers Automotive franchisees?
Well, number one is take care of the customer and provide a great experience for them. Number two would be to build a great team and trust your gut with regard to your team members. Building a team that is focused on quality, integrity and customer service is essential.
How did you build your team?
The key was identifying the people who are my core team players, and building it around them. Now, as we add people, there’s a culture here that people recognize and can usually catch onto.
How do you define success?
Well, there are a few components that are necessary for success, but for me, it’s establishing a business that glorifies God, that has a great reputation in the community, and that is able to financially provide for our families — not just mine, but those of everyone who works here. Success also means that we have a culture of building up one another, so that every team member, including me, is growing, learning, progressing — not only in our careers, but in our personal lives.
Do you feel like you’re experiencing success as you define it?
If you were starting over, would you choose to work with Christian Brothers again?
Yes. Christian Brothers has already constructed a model that allows me to do what’s important to me, which is to perform automotive service in a way that glorifies God.
OWN A CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AUTOMOTIVE
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